“I’d done the right thing. I always did. It just would have been nice if someone had noticed.” ― Sarah Dessen, Saint Anything
Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?
Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.
The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.
For me, Sarah Dessen is an author I find comfort reading. I think it comes from my preteen years when I felt like only Dessen could put to words the things that I was feeling.
I was a really angsty kid.
So, clearly Saint Anything wasn’t my first experience with a Dessen novel and it won’t be my last. Actually, it’s been a few years since I read one of her books, and that was to reread Just Listen.
I can say that while I really enjoyed Saint Anything it wasn’t my favorite of Dessen’s books. I think when you compare it to the very popular This Lullaby and Just Listen it can fall flat, but when looking at it and reading it as what it is: Sarah Dessen giving us yet another relatable and well-written character, you easily fall into the charm of her writing.
Dessen does a spectacular job of discussing issues that some teens may be experiencing. Things like depression, loneliness and mental illness are issues that she tackles with a level of precision that I really admire. It’s no different in Saint Anything, as she navigates the landscape of a family picking up the pieces after its star child is arrested for hitting a pedestrian while drinking and driving.
Let’s talk about the characters. Something I think Dessen does well in every book I’ve ever read from her is creating strong and well-written characters. From the start of when she was introduced, I was in love with Layla. She’s a vibrant and interesting character that I, honestly, would have liked to have seen more of and unfortunately she seemed like a character that was meant to be a means to an end as she’s the little sister of our main characters love interest.
I think my biggest gripe with Dessen’s novels is the lack of representation of races and sexualities. She does well writing and creating people and events, but there is a very obvious lack of diversity and that just doesn’t sit well with me.
Overall, I gave Saint Anything a 3/5 stars. It was a good book and a nice fluffy read before I dived into the very intimidating Lord of Shadows.